Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Psycho vs Psycho

As Halloween draws near, lets all remember the film that really did scare audiences out of their seats. All it took was a shower scene (I bet you've guess it), mother issues and a brilliant score.

Please be aware this post contains SPOILERS.

Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. And Gus Van Sant's pointless remake of the same name.

In recent years there have been a few things said about Hitchcock, his controversial ways of treating his actress', they way he worked and his subject choice in films. Both BBC's The Girl and Hitchcock starring Anthony Hopkins tried to explore these issues. Both set around the filming of different films and both expressed very different images of the great director. No matter what he was like as a person though, I will always admire him as a great director. Which why I feel sick to the stomach when I hear talk of his iconic films being 'remade'.

Why ruin a classic? I don't think the argument 'to bring it to a new audience' is good enough or actually a good enough reason at all. A new audience can appreciate older films. The 'old' audience will just hate the 'new' version. If people don't like 'black and white' films, then that's just what they are like. I find it hard to change people's minds who say that. Those who love and appreciate film will make the effort but there is no use in forcing people.

Psycho (1960) was adapted from the novel of the same name by Robert Bloch who was inspired by the real life crimes of serial killer Ed Gein. The tale of the making of Psycho is sordid but that's what Hitchcock went for. Anyone out there seen 'Marnie'? You'll know what I mean.

Psycho begins with Marion Crane, a secretary who steals money from her employer and hits the road. She plans to meet her boyfriend, who is in on the scam, later. She hides out, or plans to hide out at The Bates Motel. She meets the owner, Norman (Anthony Perkins). He seems friendly and normal. He lives with his mother at the house that overlooks the motel. Of course things do not go to Marion's plan.

Killing off the lead actress, even before the film is half way through was big deal back then. Janet Leigh was nominated for her supporting role at the Oscars, as well as Hitchcock for Best Director. He lost out to Billy Wilder for The Apartment. Not only having a famous actress take a small but defining role made the film a success, but casting 'against type' for the (SPOILER) serial killer himself Norman made the ending all the more a surprise. Unfortunately, after the film was released, Perkins was inundated with villain roles, type casting him forever.

Everyone remembers the infamous shower scene where (SPOILER) Marion is knifed to death by Norman Bates' mother, supposedly. The music for this scene, makes it a chilling memory that no one can forget. As well as other famous scenes in the film, the second most chilling is the last shot of Norman Bates (SPOILER) sitting in a jail cell, after being arrested for the murders, staring into the camera, being both his own voice and his mother's.

Having a classic like this, remade in 1998 by Gus Van Sant seemed pointless to me. Supposedly, the film is shot for shot. I saw the remake years ago when I was 15 or 16. It was at a low key Halloween party. Watch a 'scary' film and eat lots of popcorn. I can't remember the other choice of film but I did get excited when I saw 'Psycho'. That's because the film fanatic in me thought it was Hitchcock's. I was severely disappointed to find it wasn't.

My first thought was 'this looks so cheap' and 'what the hell is Vince Vaughn doing in this?'. My opinion didn't improve either as I knew what was going to happen. There were a few jumpy moments and I'm sure it isn't shot for shot exactly. There updates in technology used as the film is set in the then present day and there is more explicit content too. During the murder scenes, surreal dreams were intercut, another unnecessary aspect of the remake.

Where Hitchcock's film was highly successful, critically and commercially, Van Sant's failed utterly.

The cast was not impressive, even though I am a Julianne Moore and William H Macy fan. They played Marion's sister who looks for her and the P.I who's sent to recover the stolen money. Vince Vaughn was a 'casting against type' actor but he's not a strong actor. Although I am glad to hear he's taken on a serious role in season two of True Detective.

Hitchcock's Psycho has spawned two strange sequels, a failed TV movie and now a successful TV series, Bates Motel set in modern day and bares next to no connection to the original film or source material. I watched the first episode and didn't think it worth my time.

Classics like Psycho should be left alone. Preserved, not forgotten and destroyed, in that order.

In this round of original vs remake, I think it's painfully obvious, it Hitchcock's win.

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